Desert Storm (with quiz)

There are a few quizzes in here. There’s at least one direct question for you to answer, and there are several “deliberate mistakes”: errors of fact that could be spotted by anyone with a reasonable general knowledge, and no specialist unicycling knowledge. Usual rule: PM me the answers, and I’ll post the winners when the answers start to dry up in a day or two. If you don’t want to enter, please don’t mention the answers in any replies to the thread. There might be some dreadful puns too.

These days, I’m too busy and brain dead from work to write up every significant ride I do, so you’ll have to wonder about the idiot on the scrambler bike who fell off after buzzing me the other night, the fine sighting of a pair of green woodpeckers, and the herd of fallow deer.

Today’s ride starts as a blank canvas: I have the whole day free, and the opportunity of an early start, should I choose to take it.

I put fresh water in the Camelbak (only a fool would ride in this weather without plentiful water), check that the GPS is working (only a fule would get lost in the forest last Wednesday and nearly not get back to the car before the car park gates closed) and I’m on my way.

When I arrive at Forest Pines, there are only a couple of dozen cars in the car park. I take my time kitting up. There has been an annoying squeak from the KH24 for some time, and I vigorously apply my spanner to all of the nuts that are in contact with the seat (except two).

Eventually, I trace the squeak to slight movement between the seat base and the rail adapter, tighten the two nuts at the rear, and the problem is cured.

The first part of the ride is familiar territory. In quick succession, I ride wide straight ballast track; narrow undulating single track that winds between tall pines; steep sand and gravel slopes; packed mud with exposed roots; and off the path through the forest, my tyre silent on the carpet of pine needles. Somewhere, I hear a cuckoo’s distinctive call, and it takes me back to my childhood days in Norfolk.

We were poor - very poor - and often had to live on what my mother could grow, or what my step father of the time could “find”. Rabbit stew, pheasant hotpot, and poacher’s pie featured on the menu. I remember the time when all my step father could catch was one rabbit and three cuckoos. My mother did her best, and made a nourishing soup with the meat, but it tasted awful - which only goes to show that too many cuckoos spoil the broth.

From time to time as I ride, my GPS beeps accusingly at me. The screen says, “Warning, weak GPS signal” and asks me to acknowledge this by pressing a button. What am I meant to do when it warns me? Ride with my hand above my head? Climb a tree? The GPS often struggles in the pine woods, which makes sense as I am surrounded by tall pines, the trunks of which contain a massive quantity of water which may block the signal.

For over three miles, I meet no one, my only companions being the wood pigeons that fly across my path, and the squirrels that scurry out of my way, their tails flowing behind them like oscilloscope traces as they hop. An occasional butterfly lands on the path in front of my wheel, playing chicken - which is strange because you almost never see chickens playing butterfly.

At last, I reach one of several areas which have been set aside for BMXs and mountain bikes. It is a large clearing, with humps, bumps, hollows and banks arranged as obstacles to be ridden over. I stop to recover my breath. I have ridden 3.47 miles without a UPD or a break, on mixed terrain with a fair bit of climbing.

To the back of where I’m sitting, a large area of forest is fire damaged. It is unlikely to be a lighting strike - the trees here are fairly young and much shorter than elsewhere - and the huge amount of litter suggests to me that it was started by human agency. A discarded bacon wrapper and a food tin suggest someone may have been cooking. Some burns a few feet off the ground on a tree trunk suggest some idiot may have been playing with a lighter.

Refreshed by my rest, I remount and spend a few minutes swooping about on the obstacles. As always, there have been changes since my previous visit. As a unicyclist, I seldom find the changes to be positive. The unicycle responds well to smooth slopes and curves, but I have little skill in vertical drops or jumps, and the changes always seem to be in the direction of making the humps rougher and the drops more sudden.

I fail a couple of times to make it to the top of the big bank. The ground is bone dry, and there is a light dusting of sand, which means that sometimes I lose traction completely and stall before stepping off. In the end, I walk to the top, then ride along the bank, ducking under low branches, shimmying around tree trunks, and always trying to take the higher line when options are presented. At last, I find a suitable descent and turn left, stomping down the slope, the wheel sometimes locking and skidding slightly in the loose sandy soil.

At the bottom, I UPD for no good reason, and I curse myself roundly. A few minutes later, I UPD again as the pedal rolls forward under my foot. This happens too often, and it’s always my right foot. It must be a bad technique thing. I swear loudly, and instruct myself in no uncertain terms to concentrate to stop being stupid.

To my right is another big area of partly burned forest. Idiots.

At last, I reach the bridge that crosses the railway and leads towards the area known as The Desert. The bridge is blocked with two massive boulders, clearly placed there to stop scrambler motorbikes. Like everyone else, I climb over them. One has a discarded disposable barbecue on it - we have disposable barbecues, and we wonder why we have so many forest fires!

After crossing the bridge, I am in scruffy woodland, unlike the more or less unspoiled forest I have just left. This is an area frequented by 4x4 drivers and riders of scrambler bikes and quads. The trees are stunted, and the ground is a dull dusty grey. Today, it is baked dry, but on previous visits it has been axle deep slimy mud. I have been known to UPD and turn round to find the wheel still vertical!

I am forced to walk up a steep sandy slope which takes me up the remains of an old railway embankment. The top of this is subsided so that riding along it is reduced to an uncomfortable succession of bumps and hollows, with distances of a couple of metres between the crests, and a rise of anything up to half a metre between the peaks and troughs. At first it is fun, but after a few hundred metres it is wearying.

At the end of this section, there used to be a really nasty combination of steep little banks and deep muddy puddles. It is now dry, and 4x4s have shaved the crests off the bumps, so I ride through easily onto an area of grey rutted wasteland that would inspire Eliot to write more portentous drivel.

Down to my right I see what used to be the Black Lagoon, but is now a more or less circular patch of clean sand.

The Black Lagoon was until recently a shallow, grey black slimy oily pond, dotted with the roofs of burned out cars, and surrounded by dead trees. I am not superstitious, but the first time I went there, I shuddered and thought it an evil place. Stupid hate-filled people had destroyed every living thing, and wantonly burned and smashed stolen cars and motorcycles.

I remember that first visit, and not speaking or even humming a tune to myself for half an hour after I left, so deep was the impression it made on me. Now the landowners have started to reclaim it, removing the worst of the debris, draining the pool, and filling it with sand.

I am looking for a way down to my right. The sides of the embankment are shallow sandy slopes, with deep ruts carved by the winter’s rain, and gouged by Land Rover wheels. At last, I find a suitably smooth slop and ride down, the wheel side slipping in the soft sand. Stopping is not an option, but as long as I keep rolling, the tyre doesn’t sink enough to dig in and stop. This is the sort of descent that cries out for spectators.

Exhilarated, I arrive at the bottom and turn left, riding in soft dry sand over an uneven but firmer base. I UPD a few times, tired, and cursing my incompetence. Riding on sand can really eat into your energy reserves and it saps your determination.

After a couple of hundred metres of this, I turn to my right and find my way up a shallow slope, over a sandy hump, and almost over the next hump before I UPD. I walk over the hump and ride down. Then, after another short section of soft sand on an uneven base, I climb a sand and loose gravel covered slope until I am on another embankment, some five metres or so above The Desert.

The Desert is an area of land owned by a firm that ran a sand quarry here. I’m not sure if they’re still working it, but at weekends, the area is used freely (but illegally) by motorcyclists, quad riders, Land Rover drivers and a unicyclist.

Every so often, when something really bad, like a chainsaw murder, is happening elsewhere in the county, Notts Constabulary have a crackdown on illegal use of The Desert, sending in helicopters, police scrambler bikes and the complete works. A few youths having harmless fun are arrested, their bikes confiscated, and they return to more conventional youthful activities like smoking pot and robbing old ladies.

Right now, it is blowing half a gale, and there is something of a sandstorm. I sit high on the embankment, regaining my breath, squinting into the wind and drinking from my Camelbak. I eat 50% of my emergency rations (a Topic), checking carefully to ensure that there is indeed a hazelnut in every bite. I used to hate those adverts. He was great comedian and scriptwriter in the Goodies, but when Bill Haley started doing voice overs in chocolate bar advertisements, I lost a lot of respect for him.

As I sit and reflect, I notice that the area I think of as The Desert is now very green. A few years ago, it was bare sand, dotted with burned out cars and abandoned fridges. Now small saplings and gorse bushes are forming little colonies, and the area between them is carpeted with grass. Nature is reclaiming her own. Between the gorse thickets, a few well defined bike and jeep tracks still exist, but the whole appearance of the area has changed since I started coming here.

I remount and ride further along the embankment, climbing slowly, working hard on the soft sand and loose gravel. At last, I find a way down the steep side - a single groove carved deep into the bank - and descend, skidding and slipping on the loose stuff.

Where to now? I have come this far, so I decide I will drop down into the quarry itself.

In a constant battle between the scramblers and the land owners, the land owners have thrown up a steep earth bank blocking access to the quarry. They have used mechanical diggers to do this, but I reflect that the basic idea of earth banks and ditches hasn’t changed since the hill forts of the Neanderthals. Well, the Neanderthals didn’t have to compete with scrambler bikes and crazy unicyclists, so I soon find a place where the top of the bank is damaged and climbing over is easy.

As I clamber down, I hear the angry mosquito buzz of a two stroke motorcycle speeding towards me. It is stirring up dry dusty sand, and the bike is barely visible. The rider passes me without even a nod of acknowledgement, too cool to nod to the fule.

I mount and ride out across the soft sand, keeping as high up the slope as I can, until I find hard baked earth. The floor of the quarry is below me to the right. To my left is a scrubby hedge. Ahead of me in the distance is the grey black of a spoil tip. Down in the quarry there are several motorcyclists, some zooming about, some tinkering with their machines.

I make it most of the way to the end of the quarry before I UPD. I pause to get my breath back. My legs are now wobbly with fatigue, and each fall is an opportunity to rest. I remount and drop down over soft shifting sand onto the bottom of the quarry and pick my way through the shallowest firmest sand I can find to a huge mound of sand in the middle.

The mound is an island of sand, presumably left there deliberately by the quarry owners. The sides are deeply scored with wheel ruts. Riding up is not an option, but I climb up with the uni over my shoulder. I scout around for a manageable descent. The first time I try, I bail out at the top, running down a steep sand bank to the quarry floor three metres or so below. The second time, I manage it, and let out a loud “Yes!” of triumph.

I spend the next few minutes climbing various steep banks and attempting to ride down, with mixed success. This is good practice, because even if I fall badly, I am unlikely to hurt myself. The feel of the unicycle digging into the sand, side slipping, and sometimes riding up over its own bow wave is exhilarating, but it is such hard work that I know I can’t manage too much of this without ruining the rest of the day’s ride.

Eventually, exhausted, I set off across the floor of the quarry, being buzzed by a couple of scramblers as I do so. A little bit of me is disappointed to get no reaction from them, but a bigger part is pleased that I appear to be accepted as just one more person enjoying the challenge of riding these obstacles. There is no abuse, no Mickey taking, and no hostility - no reaction at all, and that’s how it should be.

I reach the quarry exit. A youth comes round the corner on a mini scrambler, his baseball cap on back to front, presumably to improve the aerodynamics. He rides along the bit that I rode earlier, looking bored. It’s not having the bike that makes it fun; it’s what you do with it, and he clearly has no idea what to do with it!

I am inspired by the sight of two big 4x4s and some scramblers high on the spoil heap in the distance. I set off in a new direction, finding a hard, rutted, gravel-strewn track that leads round the back of the spoil heaps. There is a fence and a hedge between me and the heaps, and the track is descending moderately steeply. It’s easy riding - at least compared to the soft sand - but it’s taking me the wrong way.

At last, I find a way through, UPDing on a steep sided rut. The track on this side of the hedge is deeply rutted - a Land Rover would bottom out - but the ground is hard. I remount and almost immediately step off, unnerved by the steepness of the drop into the rut on my left. I remount, then ride fairly easily up the gently sloping track, avoiding the deep ruts, but having to push gorse and birch aside with my arms and legs, relying on tipping my head forward so that my helmet protects my eyes.

A couple of hundred metres of this and I am breathing hard, and my route now turns sharp left for a direct assault on the back of the spoil tip. The ground is hard, but covered in soft sand, and sometimes I lose traction. I make it all the way up to the brow of the hill without a UPD, despite some wheel spins and “big moments”. As I ride over the brow, a huge area of rutted black and grey shaley ground opens up before me. I dismount and get my breath. I have just done a climb of about 10 - 15 metres, but over some of the roughest and toughest ground I have ever ridden.

Remounting, I set off over the flat black and grey spoil. This is deeply rutted in places, subsided and eroded, and demanding constant concentration if I am to avoid a UPD. A fall here could be expensive - I don’t want “gravel rash” with this stuff embedded in it, thank you.

All the time, I am scanning the steep sided black heap ahead of me. I think I can see exactly one rideable way up, and lots of unrideable ways down! With gritted teeth and much grunting, I find my way to the very top, the highest point of the spoil heap, overlooking the sand quarry.

Showing off, I ride the skyline, then stop for a moment. I must have climbed a total of fifty metres from the quarry floor, and with only a couple of UPDs close together before the serious part of the climb began. I feel pretty proud. 44, but not past it yet, even if tennis players are now retiring at 23!

To my left is a separate high point, more like a “whale back” than a peak. To get there, I need to ride down the steep side of the peak I’m on, then meander across a black rutted plain until I reach the base of the up slope. One I hit the slope, it is surprisingly easy, because the ground is rock hard, and after soft sand, it is luxury. The total climb is probably only 7 or 8 metres, but it must look good, because just after I reach the top, I hear a shout of “Uuuuurgh! yes!” from far below me in the quarry, and a quick glance suggests it was intended for my benefit.

Showing off again (I’ve earned it) I ride the very edge of the top of the slope, knowing that I will be perfectly silhouetted.

How to get down? I reckon it’s a 20 metre drop from here to The Desert, and the slope to my right is too rutted to ride down. I find a jeep track which is at about the limit of my known riding ability in terms of steepness and roughness, and longer than any continuous steep descent I can recall doing. (The long descents on the Dartmoor weekend were longer but shallower.)

As I launch into this descent, I see a huge group of people at the bottom, all enjoying the sun, and watching the motorcycles. Falling in front of such an audience is not an option, and even when I have to cross steep sided ruts, I manage it, totally focused on what I am doing.

The very last obstacle is a patch of soft sand followed by a hump a metre or so high. I make it over this and find myself in the midst of a group of people who have a van, some bikes and boxes of tools out. They part to let me through and we exchanged smiles. I rush the next obstacle - another sandy hump - make it to the top but UPD elegantly, catching the seat with my hand. I remount as if that is perfectly normal and ride on. There are no comments from the gallery.

I am now on the sandy track that runs along the side of The Desert. Again, there are earthen barriers, and I keep looking for a way over. After rejecting a couple of routes, I rush up a metre high hump, pause, then make the steep descent towards The Desert floor, a drop of 2 - 3 metres. The slope down is uneven, and for a moment I get “big air” (as a vegetarian, I normally just get bad wind) before landing in soft sloping sand. My shout of “Yes!” is premature because it is followed almost immediately by the wheel digging in and me doing a running UPD.

I remount and struggle for a hundred metres or so across soft dry sand, once falling inelegantly off the back and ending on my backside. This is too much like hard work, and I end up walking back to the bank, climbing over and rejoining the track, where I immediately UPD again.

Determination fatigue is cutting I. I have not been this physically tired for a long time. I sit at the side of the track and consume a Snickers. This chocolatey peanut-based treat was formerly known as the Marathon. In Nottingham, long distance runners do the Robin Hood Marathon once a year; I think they should rename it the Maid Marian Snickers.

As I am eating my Snickers, I see a big 4x4 come out of the wood to my right. It seems to be baulked, the driver unwilling to commit to crossing the deep ruts ahead of him. Eventually, all goes quiet, and three blokes come into view on foot, scruffy, dressed in cammo gear - typical wannabe red necks. I nod to them. I get a mixed response - not hostile, but slightly baffled. They clamber into a lighter jeep that has already crossed the ruts and continue on their way., leaving the other vehicle behind.

Remounting, I ride down and across the ruts that stopped the 4x4 and within a hundred metres or so, I am by the Patch of Clean Sand Formerly Known as the Black Lagoon. A small group of trail bikes roars past me, the riders ignoring me: these are the real deal, with full leathers, helmets and dust masks. It wouldn’t do for them to acknowledge some bloke in a T shirt on a one wheeled push bike!

The climb up from the ex lagoon is one of the most difficult I know, not just because of its steepness and length, but because there is a steep drop down to the right into a rut that is half a metre or more deep. Branches and undergrowth encroach from the left. I think I have done the whole climb “in on” once or twice, but not when I’ve been this tired. Determination fatigue cuts in again, about half way up and I dismount and walk.

The climb takes me back onto the old track bed, so it is mal de mer time on the undulations, then an exciting descent down the gravel and sand slope that I walked up an hour ago. Soon I am at the bridge over the railway, then clambering over the boulders and tutting again at the discarded disposable barbecue.

From here, it is a very short easy climb to the start of the off road bike course. This course features often in my rides. A notice warns it is for experienced cyclists only. I regularly see people on disc-braked dual-suspension 23 speed mountain bikes hesitating at the top. It is usually one of the easiest sections of my day’s ride! But it has to be done.

Today, it is different, because the storm of 18th January brought down a lot of the trees in this area. The timber obstacles (more “east coast” than “north shore”, but at least they made an effort) are completely missing. I normally miss out the woodwork anyway, and just ride the bumps and holes. I whiz down, then pick my way between tree stumps and fallen branches before stomping up the little hill that leads back to the main forest track. Ahead of me on the main track I see two young women on mountain bikes. One catches my eye, then turns to her companion excitedly, pointing out the unicycle.

A minute or so later I am on the main track, and dropping down the slope towards a junction. At the junction, I meet a family group, out for a ride. Mother is a frightfully middle class Guardian-reader type, cycling in a floral print smock, probably by Laura Ashley. She is the spokesman for the group.

“I say, could you tell me the way to Vicar’s Pool?”
“Sorry, where?”
“Vicar’s Pool.” A flicker of irritation crosses her English-rose brow. Foolishly, she has asked an ignorant pleb for directions.
“I think it’s this way,” she tells me. If the pleb can’t give her directions, she’ll have to do it herself.
“There is a pond down that way, but I don’t think it’s one you want to visit - it’s all oily and boggy with burned out cars in it.”
“Yes, that’ll be the one,” she says, clearly not listening. I have already been dismissed as an oik.
“He’s lost his other wheel,” remarks father, confirming the wisdom of appointing mother as the spokesman.
“Yes, but only his front one,” says mother, reasserting her authority.
“Is there a BMX course down there?” asks one of the kids.
I start to explain that there is.
The other adult female joins in. “How do you ride that thing up hill?” she asks.
Clearly, she is the black sheep of the family, speaking to commoners when there is no absolute need.
“Hard work and practice,” I say, smiling to soften the rather terse nature of my reply.
“Oh, there’s another one,” says someone.

I turn to see a unicyclist approaching, accompanied by a bicyclist. I immediately recognise the unicyclist as the chap who bought the Road Razor from me a few weeks ago. Circumstances and faces I can do. Names take a little longer to surface in my memory. Fortunately, he has “Andy” written on the front of his helmet. The helmet seems to fit, so I guess it’s his. I’ll call him Andy. His forum name is Anam, and when I checked he does indeed sign his PMs “Andy”.

We make small talk. Mrs. Guardian reader becomes mildly irritated. She makes polite excuses about being in a rush and the whole family sets off down the hill.

I natter to Andy and his companion for a while. They are on their way to the café because, er…, someone forgot to take any water. A true gentleman, he is assuming responsibility for the error.

We go our separate ways. I ride down the slope to the BMX course. The friendlier of the two women from the family group is there, watching one of the kids riding the course. She catches my eye and smiles, a warm genuine smile. She at least is enjoying her day out on its merits, rather than as a “family project”.

This area of BMX obstacles has been hugely changed over the last few months. Fortunately, I was here only a few days ago, so I know what to expect. When I see the kids from the family all hesitating at the top of the steepest little drop, I know I can ride it.

As I approach, I ask them to make way. The boy who spoke to me earlier says, “Don’t try the really steep green one with the logs. It’s vertical.”

I thank him and drop down the slope. It is a metre and a half, not quite vertical, but far to steep to walk up (I tried last Wednesday) and I earn gasps of amazement from the kids.

I rush the next obstacle, which is a metre and a half high and very steep, and I crest it, pause and drop down the other side. This is good going: Wednesday’s experience is that my success rate on this one is about 25%.

It goes without saying that I ride the little steep green obstacle with the vertical drop. It’s only 30 centimetres if that, and if this boy finds that hard on £1,000 worth of mountain bike, he wants his arse kicking. He shouts after me, in a plummy voice, “Now that’s just showing off.”
I ignore him.
“Mummy, look. Now he’s just showing off.”

Now, in my book, shouting mild insults at a stranger, but for the intention of being overheard by one’s mother, falls pretty squarely within any definition of “showing off” I can think of. Mummy, of course, is Mrs. Guardian Reader. I think she is slightly embarrassed, and she smiles weakly at me as I pass.

I do another lap of the course. This time, there are three mountain bikers hesitating at the top of the first drop. I ride between them. A few metres later I UPD elegantly on the 25% obstacle, remount, and do the rest of the course easily. I stop to get my breath back, and watch in silent amazement as the mountain bikers, each on dual-suspension disc-braked multi-geared machines, hesitate, dab their feet down and fluff almost everything they’ve just seen me ride confidently on a unicycle!

I am now on my last reserves of energy, and I follow familiar routes back through the forest towards the cafe, sometimes on hard wide ballast tracks, sometimes meandering though pine woods on soft silent pine needles, sometimes stomping up gravelly hills. I see a jay flying away to my left. It is one of Britain’s most distinctive and colourful birds, and the only one that could be written phonetically with just one letter of the alphabet (J). In the same way, can you think of a bird that can be written with just two letters of the alphabet?

Back at the café, I meet Andy and his companion, and we chat for a few minutes before I return to the car, almost flat out exhausted. Only 11.5 miles, but with all that sand and the climbing, it’s one of the toughest MUni rides I’ve ever done.

I didnt even read it:D , but thats a lot of story info stuff. :astonished:

“only” 11.5 miles. That’s a long muni ride in any conditions. You’re an animal.

Only one entrant so far. He got two of the deliberate mistakes (but not all of them) and got an almost correct answer for the direct question near the end.

Anyone else?

Didn’t even notice any mistakes (details are not my forte), and although something is niggling at the back of my mind regarding the bird, I have been working hard on an essay all day (5 thousand words is definately too long for an essay on PTSD) so I’m too brain dead to summon it into total consciousness.

Oh well, I really enjoyed the write up though.

This is in no way related to the competition, but I was just wondering why there is so much sand in a forest (as opposed to a beach, say). I guess it used to be under water or something. Also I was wondering how the cars get into the lagoon and quarry cos I always had the impression that you rode on narrow tracks rather than car size ones.

Thanks. :smiley:

I’m also going to crash this thread for a few minutes to tell you about my ride. I rode 20 miles on Thursday (I was supposed to be doing the essay - that’s why I had to do it today instead) and I was thinking about writing it up as I rode. Mainly because (unusually for me) the ride wasn’t just along the prom. I took my uni inland and rode up hills and everything! Needless to say, I was actually to lazy to write it up and I’ve forgotten most of it. But it was a gorgoeus ride, lots of lovely scenery and springy smells.

One thing sticks in my mind was that at one point I was trying (but failing) not to talk to an elderly couple as I was taking a quick rest and having a munch of the obligatory malt loaf. They were interested in the uni and wanted to know if I was training for anything (no, it’s just fun) and I reassured them that no, I didn’t ride on roads, just pavements and cycle paths. What I remeber most about this exchange was how guilty I felt when I rode out of the carpark of the nature reserve where I had been talking to them and rode down the road as I couldn’t b bothered to do the on and off the pavement thing.

At the time that I told the old lady that I didn’t usually ride on the road, I ment it, I didn’t perposefully lie to a little old lady, honest. But I had to share it here, in an effort to get it out of my head. :smiley:

(Actually I’ve been plucking up the courage to ride on the quiet roads much more often now and I’m really going to have to pluck up the courage to ride up into the hills behind Prestatyn because just riding the prom is getting a bit boring now)

Nottingham is famous for its sandstone. Nottingham castle is built high on a sandstone rock. Below the city is a network of caves carved by hand as storage cellars. the Trip To Jerusalem pub is dug into the side of castle rock. A large part of Nottingham’s water supply comes from an aquifer in bunter sandstone.

North of Nottingham, where I was riding, there are sand and gravel quarries as well as coal mines. This whole area has lots of sand and sandstone.

The Desert is a man made feature: a quarry, and the surrounding area of devastation. Access to the quarry can be gained by a number of roads designed for quarry traffic. There is also an old right of way (now blocked off) which used to bisect the forest area.

Apart from which the sort of a**eholes who steal cars and torch them can get anywhere if they try hard enough.

This link should show the desert area:,360465&st=4&ar=Y&mapp=newmap.srf&searchp=newsearch.srf

Thank you. I feel much better now. And ashamed of my lack of knowledge of general british geography.

Ladies and Gennelmun, we have a winner:

Domesticated Ape and Naomi made brave stabs at the answers, but only Rob Northcott got a full clean sweep, with reasons.

The person in the Topic advert voice over, was a comedian from The Goodies: Bill Oddie.

American and other non UK readers may never have head of Topic, The Goodies, or indeed Bill Oddie, but surely everyone knows that Bill Haley was the great rock and roll star, singer of Rock Around the Clock, Shake Rattle and Roll, See You Later Alligator, and countless others. A true founding father of white rock and roll music. He died when he was rocking round the clock - he fell off the mantlepiece.

Neanderthal hill forts? Neanderthals were an early hominid race, not human beings like us. They existed long time before Homo sapiens (that’s us). Hill forts were built mainly in the iron age and the dark ages - that’s about 1,000 BC to about 500 AD, give or take. Some may have been bronze age, and others may even have gone back a little bit further (I’m no expert), but the history of hill forts is encompassed easily by the last 5,000 years, whereas Neanderthals were way before that.

Come on, cyclists: a 23 speed mountain bike? As Rob correctly pointed out, 23 is a prime number. This was deliberate. Derailleur gears are calculated as the number of chain rings, multiplied by the number of sprockets. (An 18 speed is 3 x 6, for example.) There is no combination of chain rings and sprockets (or even hub gears) that would make a 23 speed.

And the bird, defined by 2 letters? Rob got the correct answer and the bonus answer.

The bonus answer (that I hadn’t though of) was E-mu, Mu being a Greek letter.

The correct answer though was PN - a female Peacock. :smiley:

Only three entrants to this competition. Maybe it was badly timed with the UK bank holiday, and maybe the story was too long. You’d be surprised by how much I miss out, though. It was a great ride.

Feedback is always welcome. There’s no sense in me writing this stuff if no one wants to read it.



Ladies and Gennelmun, we have a winner:

Domesticated Ape and Naomi made brave stabs at the answers, but only Rob Northcott got a full clean sweep, with reasons.

Well done indeed to Rob. Getting PN especially. Prefer emu though as it doesn’t have to drop any H’s to be correct.

I think many people read the reports and appreciate them Mike, the quiz, especially in such a long text, is going to attract less entrants than readers.


Woohoo I won something :slight_smile:
I only entered the PN as a joke - I thought there must be a more sensible answer but couldn’t be bothered to read every bird book to find out.
Evidently being silly sometimes pays off.


Of course, all birds are AVN